Time capsules

Discussion in 'Your Vintage Home' started by BlueTrain, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    I was reminded of this as I read the thread about the wartime home. But maybe I can get something going here.

    My wife's grandmother was related to a large family that lived in Charlestown, West Virginia, which is in the eastern panhandle of the state. The family was quite well-off, as we might say but of about ten or twelve children, there are no living descendants. One of them inherited the house from her father, who was a Civil War veteran and very successful local businessman. She was the last to die and my wife's grandmother inherited the place and lived there until she, too, passed away. So my wife's parents and aunt and uncle were the ones who cleared out the house and sold everything that was not kept. This would have happened around 1970 or a little earlier and remembers it.

    As my wife puts it, it was a time capsule. If 1910 was ever a golden year, it certainly was at that house. The house was full of all of the kinds of nice things people would have had in their house around the turn of the century. I have the image of the two little old ladies from the movie Arsenic and Old Lace, wearing fashions from 30 years earlier. It seems that many in my wife's family on her mother's side never married, which would seem strange now, which one marriage is not always considered sufficient.

    The house is still there but has since been divided into apartments. The neighborhood there still has some grand houses, too.

    I wonder if others here have had similar glimpses into the past.
     
  2. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    There was a great uncle on my mother's side (my mom's immediate family was basically a depression era poor family) who was a physician. I visited him in his house, in Jersey City, NJ, a few times when I was very young in the late '60s / very early '70s. It was a big stone house (not a mansion - looking back, two stories of, probably, about 1500 square feet a floor) in a row of big stone houses (almost unattached townhouses - a narrow driveway was the only thing between each long narrow house).

    He had his office, an examination room and a waiting room on the first floor along with the family's private living room, dining room and kitchen (and a small sun room - in retrospect, probably a closed-in porch). Upstair was all bedrooms and bathrooms. He and his wife had one child that they raised in the '30s and '40s. At the time I visited the house the late '60s / early '70s, everything was very up-to-date, quite impressively, for the 1930s.

    The furniture, the decor, the bathrooms and kitchen all felt '30s prosperous. As I learned more about period architecture and decor later in life, I recognized things from that house that aligned to the '30s. The furniture was all of that period or early - heavy wood that even as a kid you knew was really nice (we didn't have that type of furniture in my neighborhood). The living room and dinning room, which were decorated in a more formal way than the rest of the house, looked like a set out of a Hollywood movie of the '30s.

    The bathrooms had '30s period tile and hardware - basically, the colored tiles and more-stylized look that followed the teens and '20s very utilitarian - and white - sanitary movement. The kitchen had a '50s era refrigerator but a gas oven and range top right out of the 30s - big, heavy with the gas pipes visible to each jet. The kitchen cabinets were white-painted metal - again, very '30s and very consistent with wealthy kitchens in pre-code movies.

    Even his examination room had some throwback medical equipment like an x-ray reader and examination table that I've seen nearly exact copies of in pre-code movies on TCM. The driveway was two tire-tracks of dirt with patchy grass on either side and the "garage" looked more like a very small barn - maybe originally it was a carriage house? We were only there a few times, but that house made a huge impression on me as we were a very small family so I knew the few relatives we had and none were wealthy like this family clearly was.

    After he passed away in the early '70s, his daughter sold the house and moved to Florida - pretty much the end of my connect to that tiny branch of our tiny family.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I've mentioned this on other threads, but in my town in the 1930s there was a woman who lived entirely in the style and manner of sixty years before. The house was frozen in time when her father died and she was a young woman, and nothing -- absolutely nothing, from furniture to wallpaper to fixtures -- was ever changed. She herself dressed and functioned entirely in the style of that era herself -- the house never had electricity installed, she never rode in anything but a horse-drawn carraige, and she never had anything to do with Victrolas or telephones or radio or movies or vaudeville shows or anything that was invented after about 1870.

    Her house wasn't off in the boonies somewhere, either. It was directly in the center of town, a big white Victorian house that was kept up immaculately -- but strictly in the style of sixty years earlier. The neighborhood kids thought she was a witch, and steered clear of the house, but her father had left her a nice bundle, and when she died she left the money to be used to start an art museum, which now bears her name. The house itself is maintained exactly as it was when she died as part of the museum complex.
     
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  4. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    ^^^Sad but cool story.
     
  5. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    "Frozen in time" is a better term for what I was trying to get across.

    I knew on two Victrolas in two different houses but I don't think either one worked. There were only a few records on hand. More than a few people still used wood-burning stoves but not all the time. I'm pretty sure they all had a gas or electric range also. Wood was pretty inexpensive around there (at the time) and it wasn't too much trouble. Nice on a cold morning. But none of them were hanging on for the sake of nostalgia or anything like that.

    Sixty years ago, a few women still dressed up to go to town with a hat and gloves, even in the summertime. My next door neighbor, an old widow woman, did that. She also wore a poke bonnet when she worked in the garden. She never wore pants, always a dress.
     
  6. hatsRme

    hatsRme I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
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    Interesting concept, reminding me of something heard on the radio a few months back. A warning about the need for security in his aging parents' home went unheeded because, as the gent put it, "if a guy with a gun breaks into my parents' house, he'll probably shoot himself when he gets inside, because he'll think he broke into a 70's museum!"
     
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  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    My grandparents' house never had central heating, and to the day we sold it was heated entirely by two kerosene stoves, one in the kitchen and one in the living room. The cellar was a mud hole walled in with red bricks, and the cost of re-building it to accomodate a furnace was far beyond their means.

    The kitchen range, a Florence built in Massachusetts, was a wonderful thing. Half of it, the kerosene part, was for heating, and it incorporated a big copper coil thru which water passed for heating and then flowed into a tall copper tank in the bathroom for storage. The hot water was *very* hot -- i scaled myself badly when I was about three and was fooling around with the shower handle. The other half of the range burned bottled Pyrofax gas, and incorporated four stovetop burners, an oven, and a cracker-warming compartment in which my grandfather would rest his feet on cold winter days while reading the paper at the kitchen table in his undershirt.

    With the exception of a television set and an electric refrigerator, both of which they added in the mid-1950s, most of the furniture that the bought when they moved into the house in 1945 was still there when they died, They replaced the wallpaper occasionally, installed aluminum screen doors some time in the early 1960s, and replaced the back doorsteps when they rotted off in the 1970s, but otherwise they changed nothing.
     
  8. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    To some extent, that's more true of most of us than we'd like to admit. Not all of us, to be sure, but, well, maybe most of those who read this forum. We have clothes that have been around for 15 years, drive cars for ten years, only reluctantly give in and start using a more modern electronic device such as those that make this forum even possible. On the other hand, there are probably those who don't have a computer at all and would laugh at the things discussed here.

    But what you described was like where my father lived after he remarried and we moved to the country in 1963. It was a log house covered in siding, heated with a coal-burning "Warm Morning" heater and had both a wood-burning range and an electric stove as well, eventually. There was no inside bathroom or toilet. Nothing was square. There was no phone. It wasn't bad but it took getting used to. Nothing leaked, anyway.
     
  9. Joe50's

    Joe50's Familiar Face

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    grandparents lived in a postwar home from the 40s it had two gas wall heaters and each room had the bell four prong phone jacks and the three chain hanging bowl shades on the ceilings lights and the kitchen had blue appliences, original cupboards with wrought iron hardware. yellow chrome lined formica , a copperhoodvent and 40's wallpaper. the bathroom had a clawfoot type tub, an early bathroom vent fan a pedestal sink with a mendicine cabinet and a light above sink with the only socket. although my great grandma frequented thrift stores and had my grandpa put a 20's art deco four pained porch typle lamp that had frosted glass and nights helments in the corners in place of the circular one in the kitchen and tall people would hit thier head walking though the kitchen. heres something i found that was close to the lights in the bedrooms wished we kept them when the house was sold image.jpg
     
  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    My great uncle's home - described above - felt very frozen in time and there was no nostalgia driving it. I think they just bought their stuff when they were a younger couple and their kid was young - they bought good quality stuff - and "updating" was not something they thought about. The had "upgraded" the refrigerator in the '50s and there was, my guess, a late '50s TV (one of those that was embedded in a piece of furniture), but in general, the stuff I saw was all from the '30s and all still being used, not fussed over at all.

    The nice thing was the house was clean and not cluttered or neglected, so it didn't feel oppressively old or sad, more just quirky / out of time - at least to me as a kid that's how it felt.
     
  11. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    I do not think that anyone in the 1950s and maybe even into the 1960s felt any nostalgia for the past.
     
  12. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    There were significant "nostalgia fads" in the early 1950s for the turn-of-the-century/pre-WWI era, and in the late 1950s for the "roaring twenties." Popular culture of the time is full of such examples, which were at about the same level of cheesy superficiality as the "Fifties" nostalgia craze of the 1970s.

    There was an even more substantial nostalgia wave in the mid-1930s for the "Gay Nineties," which extended into the early 1940s. There were, again, plenty of popular-culture examples of this, from songs to movies to attractions at the New York World's Fair. That Fair was supposed to be all about "The World of Tomorrow," but "George Jessel's Little Old New York," which was a contrived, proto-Disneyland reproduction of 1890s New York, was one of the most popular attractions in the Amusement Zone.

    I submit that *all* nostalgia in the sense that it's understood today is that same sort of superficial, cheesy, campy fictionalization of the popular culture of the period, rather than any real interest in the actual period it claims to represent.
     
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  13. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    I'd go along with that. It's interesting that the periods of interest as far as nostalgia go seem to be just far enough back in time so that only the good things are remembered and everything else is a little hazy. Happy Days on television was like that. Not everything is nostalgia, of course, but some things are so vague as to historical accuracy that you don't know what to say about them. All the B-westerns in the 30s and 40s (especially the singing cowboys) and the TV westerns of the 1950s and 1960s were so historically contrived that, like the Tarzan movies and all the super hero and science fiction movies, you simply had to ignore all of it and just sit back and enjoy the movie. None of us are really that desperate for reality. If we can't have song and dance, then we'll take escapist fiction instead and in heavy doses.
     
  14. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    I remember reading an interview with Henry Winkler, the actor who played Fonzie on "Happy Days." Winkler grew up in Brooklyn or the Bronx - I don't remember exactly, but it was one of those tough NYC neighborhoods in the '50s - and he said he remembered real "Fonzies" and they were not softies inside but truly scary characters that he avoided by hiding in buildings, etc., if he was alone and saw one coming. Funny that the symbol of that nostalgia moment knew well the fiction he was promulgating.
     
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  15. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

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    4,211
    Location:
    Gopher Prairie, MI
    I remember the house in which my father grew up. he was very late baby - grandma was 52 and grandpa was 59 when he was born. The house was a little 1 1/2 story worker's cottage of about 1000 square feet which had been built in 1907 and had been occupied by our family since 1913 or 1914. In this house my grandparents raised 8 children, 7 boys and a girl, four of whom lived past the age of 25.

    The house retained its original fixtures - A combination gas electric chandelier in the kitchen, "electric shower" fixtures in the living room and dining room, and simple pendants elsewhere, with supplementary gas brackets for emergency use in the downstairs and upstairs hall, in the bathroom and in tiny little box room. The electric service was 30 amp, 110 volt. The fuse box consisted of a wooden box lined with asbestos paper whoch protected a small square of slate fitted with 3 pairs of binding posts which one would connect with bits of lead fuse wire. A single outlet had been added in the kitchen, another in the dining room (on a pendant cord hanging from the chandelier) and two outlets had been added in the living room. The house was furnished catch-as-catch-can, generally with sturdy Victorian pieces purchased used in the 'Teens.

    The last time the house had been repapered would have been in about 1937, when natural gas was installed and the furnace was converted from coal to gas. There was a Radiola-Electrola combination in the living room, a monsterous thing of 1926 vintage which my uncle Anthony had bought for a song around 1935. It no longer worked, so my grandmother set its replacement, a little General Electric All American 5 radil on top of the behemoth. The cellar contained all of my grandfather's tools, the dressers contained boys clothes from the 19120 era, my late (died in 1931 at the age of 21) aunt Olga's Victrola, her clothes, and other things were all in her room. My late (died in 1933 at the age of 23) Uncle William's ham radio outfit was still set up in the tiny room at the top of the stairs. Besides the radio and a little portable television set which belonged to my uncle Phil (who spent most of his days after the War in various VA hospitals, coming home only occasionally) the newest item in the place was the refrigerator, a 1937 General Electric. The basement contained grandma's aluminum Maytag, a laundry stove and a wash boiler, in addition to the enormous octopus of a furnace. the fruit cupboard still contained jars that grandma canned during the War. We cleared the house out for sale in 1977. I remember going through every nook and cranny. kept a pretty detailed inventory of the house's contents for some reason.
     
  16. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    We had to clear out the house where my wife's parents lived for over 30 years, the longest they had lived anywhere and all of that was during my father-in-law's retirement, too. There were some very old things there but they had all been taken there when they had moved. It makes me more conscious of all the things that have accumulated at our house. I hate to admit it but all of that stuff helps make it a home. It's like it's part of the spirt of the home, so when you move you have to take at least some of it along. It's not the same as leaving home when you finish school.

    My father remarried after my mother died (she didn't make it to 50). My new stepmother owned a log house back in the hills and that's were we moved a few years later. She had a sister, however, how lived in town in another part of the state, in a very modern ranch-style house with redwood siding. That was in the 1960s. But they still had an ancient pale green refrigerator with the motor or cooling unit in a round compartment on top. Even then, I was aware of how starkly incongruous it was. When visiting there once, they drove around to show us where they used to live, too, as if that were significant. I guess it was still part of their life, in a way.
     
  17. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    When I was disposessed from the apartment where I'd lived for 8 years, I took the doorknobs and one of the doors with me. The building was being demolished so it didn't matter...
     
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  18. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Location:
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    I think I mentioned this before, I live in a 1928 coop apartment house where many owners, when renovating, literally, throw out many of the original architectural details (truly dating back to 1928) without a thought. When we renovated, we looked to put those details back and were given by the super - who tries to save what he can - room permitting - from these renovation - an original medicine cabinet, a crazy number of original bathroom tiles, original door knobs, hinges, closet rods (they are these really cool square things), floor moldings, picture rails, radiators, faucets and locksets.

    We used almost everything and gave him back what we didn't. Our apartment had a lot of original architectural details when we bought it - we restored (lightly, trying to leave patina) many of those and added in the ones the super gave (so the apartment looks even more "original" than when we bought it). To each his own, but it breaks my heart when I see - and I see it all the time, all over the city - original items being tossed in big construction dumpsters as renovations take place.
     
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  19. Joe50's

    Joe50's Familiar Face

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    Just saw a 1962 house that was completely original kitchen had a big Formica island and white linoleum with brown atomic/floral design on It
    The light fixtures were atomic and it had an atrium space in the middle of the house
    The house was flipped and you woundnt recognize the inside
     
  20. VintageEveryday

    VintageEveryday A-List Customer

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    Location:
    Woodside, NY
    my grandparent's house is a bizarre mashup (not counting the equally bizarre and quirky behavior of my late grandparents) of the early 60s, when the house was built, the early 70s, when the kitchen and upstairs bathroom were renovated, and the mid 90s, when the good furniture was sadly gotten rid of and replaced with cheap junk.
     

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